Justin Lassen on Creating Music with Ultrabooks!

Justin Lassen at Palace of the Arts Hall in Budapest (2006) Last year in my first post on my Intel blog, I got to experiment with a variety of different Atom based tablets and netbooks. I went into the details with demos, examples, history and sources on “Creating Music With Netbooks” across Windows, Linux and MeeGo. To sum up what I liked about Atom based netbooks (and still do), I liked that they are ridiculously affordable and for my Indiana-jones-style-adventures around the globe as an artist, sound designer and international composer, they are super tiny and easy to pack, makes things super mobile and yet still capable of creating basic concepts and skeletons and even finished work on the fly for new music, sound design and sampling.

Justin Lassen with an Intel Centrino Mint Tin (2006) I was reading an old blog entry from 2006, and my how far we’ve come. I’m starting to get a feeling of déjà vu all over again. Looking back on my history with Intel® technology over the years, I remember when the first Intel Centrino M notebooks came out, and I did a lot of travel with those and I loved that I had the state-of-the-art in my hands whether I was recording with an orchestra in a foreign country or just collaborating in a friends living room, from classical to hip-hop, being mobile was the dream every artist wanted. Those notebooks, they now seem like heavy bricks compared to the stylish options we have today.

"…Well, the last year or so, I've been using Intel Centrino Mobile technology on all my travels to various countries and living conditions. I was always a Pentium 4 guy, and didn't really believe that Centrino could actually handle what I needed it to handle with all the music, synths, MIDI and recording applications... I was wrong, this stuff is great and portable, which has allowed me to record in the oddest of places."
- Justin Lassen, 09.12.2006 (Live Journal Travel Blog)

Justin Lassen with Asus Ultrabook at Pike Market in Seattle, WA (2012) Well, I have fallen in love with a new exciting contender in this “super tiny” category. The Intel® Ultrabooks have finally brought really powerful processors, professional specifications into a compact and attractive form factor that rivals and surpasses even Netbooks! Like most of you, I have seen the commercials, publicity stunts and PR gimmicks going around about Ultrabooks on television, the web, youtube, celebrity stunts and so on. There was a question in my head since these things came out. Are they really what they say they are? Can I really be creative on them? What software for musical creation runs on them? What else can I run on them? Games? Video? I googled for videos, articles, anything and did not find anything that really answered the question in my mind, “What software can a musician like will.i.am actually run on his Ultrabook?”

Asus Zenbook (Ultrabook) UX31E (2012) It seemed like everything I could find on the net was just a review about how compact it was, or that you could easily check your facebook or e-mail, or write a school paper on them, or have it instantly turn on in a coffee shop or edit a few photographs in Photoshop. This wasn’t enough for me, because I needed to know if it was something creative power users like me could actually utilize on real-world projects with audio and MIDI.

After looking at all the wonderful Ultrabook models by the various different manufacturers, I chose to put the 2nd Generation ASUS Zenbook UX31E with Intel® Core i7 1.8Ghz (Turbo Boost, 2.8Ghz), 4GB DDR3 RAM, 256GB SSD, 13.3” 1600x900 Resolution model through its paces intensely. I was completely impressed and even surprised in some cases of what it could actually handle. I picked the model mainly because of the screen resolution/real-estate, for editing in audio and video projects. I believe that the 3rd generation Ultrabooks will have higher resolution as they hit the market.

Asus Zenbook UX31E running Unreal Engine 3 Firstly, besides musical applications, this Ultrabook only has an Intel HD 3000 graphics chipset, and surprisingly, it handles some decently modern games alright. If you keep the settings on medium you get playable framerates. I tested Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2, Half Life 2 as well as EA’s Alice: Madness Returns (which is the Unreal Engine 3), and even that ran pretty alright! The machine gets warm, but not extremely hot or anything like that, even when doing music, it runs warm. But then again, so does a smartphone or an ipad. I think it is cool to be able to whip out the Ulrabook for a quick session of Left 4 Dead 2 with my friends, on-the-go, if I’m just visiting from out of town. It’s nice to know that the machine I’m bringing can do more than just e-mail and youtube videos! Ultrabook ftw! The 3rd Gens have the newer Intel graphics chipsets, so these things will only continue to get better!

Presonus and Amplitube Now, for the music applications. For all you recording musicians, both amateur and professional, this ones for you! For me, it is very important that FL Studio runs on any of my computers, as it makes everything possible for me. I fully tested out Image-Line’s FL Studio 10 and no surprise there, it runs fantastically, even large sessions. I tested out moderately large sessions on Cakewalk’s Sonar X1 and PreSonus’ Studio One 2 Professional, which both not only handled superbly but also took advantage of the multi-core Core i7 processors. I was able to make full on modern electronic cover songs of both Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” and Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited”, and I’m about to lose control, but I think I like it! Lol

Sony Acid Pro 7 Stutter Editing on Ultrabook I also tested out Sony’s line of tools, including Sony Vegas Pro 11, Sony Acid Pro 7 and Sony Sound Forge 10, and all handled as expected. They’ve always been great with making software that works on a variety of systems, but truth be told, I had to remind myself that this was an Ultrabook, because it handled some pretty hefty music sessions nicely for me. I tried Adobe Audition CS4 on it as well, which ran like a charm. And to top it all off, I gave Steinberg Cubase 6.5 a spin and boy did it handle a pretty large session! Very very impressed! The guitar effects in Cubase as well as the Amplitube suite and Native Instruments Guitar Rig also all worked beautifully! Waves stuff worked excellent on it. Really no matter what you are using, you are going to find that just about everything will work in a session on an Ultrabook with these specs. The point of testing that stuff out? It’s road-ready for sampling, audio editing and field recording. Don’t be fooled by the attractive design.

And to top it all off, I’d like to share a few creations of music I made with JUST the Ultrabook below:

This first one was made with a combination of FL Studio, Zeta+ 2.0, Sonar X1 and Acid Pro 7 for all the elements. It was a track I did for Blackburner’s song “Dust Eater”, which is a dubstep song, so I made it sort of an “indubstrial” song instead, with new guitars, sound designs, and effects all running from just the processor on the Ultrabook. Can’t say it enough, I’m impressed it handled it all:


The second is an industrial rock song, that I took to even greater heights with orchestral infusion and epic bombastics, for a band called Third Realm. This one was created solely with FL Studio and PreSonus Studio One Professional 2. A lot of iZotope Iris, the new synth I did factory content for, was used on both of these remixes as well. It handled a ton of instances of that synth, which I was happy about!

Lighthouse (Justin Lassen Remix) by Third Realm

Justin Lassen with Roland Jupiter 80 and Ultrabook I’m on the road again, and I’ve brought the Ultrabook and my Roland Jupiter 80 with me this time. I’m getting a lot of work done on some new music, remixes, sound designs, libraries, instruments and production for artists, video game and film projects in Seattle and LA. If I can do all this with the 2nd Generation, I can’t wait to get my hands on the 3rd Generation Ultrabooks. I would like to see glowing keys, more cores, higher resolutions, but as we all know very well, technology moves at such a fast pace, I’m sure soon I’ll be quoting from this blog entry years from now, and be even more amazed at how archaic these words are, when we’re using even tinier, more powerful, nanobooks. :) Until then… keep creating, keep traveling, keep exploring, and keep sharing your story, your art and experiences with the rest of us. We’re all in this together, and the more mobile we are, the more collaborative and exciting life becomes. So whether it is your on-the-go adventuring rig, or just a companion to your current setup, I think it makes total sense for content creators and artists to add an Ultrabook to their arsenal of tools.
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1 comment

Chippy's picture

Fantastic job sir.
I'm seeing the Ultrabook mentioned in a lot of high-end forums now. Photography, Video, Music Creation. This answers a good few questions. I'll relay it to my readers.
BTW, I've tried Traktor DJ with an additional USB sound card and mixer and it seems fast and stable, even with some effects running.
Keep it up Justin.
Steve - Ultrabooknews.com

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